My blog is mostly about wildlife, particularly birds, walking, days out, all growing things and anything else that comes to mind.
To view pictures in larger format, just click on any picture for the picture gallery....

Monday, 31 December 2007

On the eve of a New Year

The last day of the year; so where did the last 12 months go?

I don't know whether it is getting older that seems to speed up the passing moments or whether I'm just getting busier. On the whole it's not been too bad a year with highlights and low lights which, I imagine, is much the same for most folks.

Well, I ask myself, what's on the agenda for 2008?

The first item is not to make any new year resolutions as I never seem to keep them. Instead I shall have a "wish list". One of the principal items being I would very much like to go further afield than my local patch to go birding and visit areas I've not visited so far.

I'm looking forward to holidaying down in Langford in Devon again this year. Will be staying at The Dairy House again. I can't recommend this highly enough. Situated not far from Cullompton and about 15 miles from Exeter, Dairy House is in the middle of beautiful countryside where wildlife abounds; your nearest neighbour being about a quarter of a mile away. Both the luxurious accommodation and open countryside are the best as is the welcome and care from hosts, Di and Richard!

There's not many who can claim that they had swallows nesting about 1 metre underneath their balcony whilst another Mum & Dad with their young, had their home "spot" on the roof of the building. Even a Spotted Flycatcher decided to build her nest during our stay in 2007. Bliss!

And so, finally for 2007, here is my new year message to all those who pop in and, with patience, read my blog......

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Sunday, 30 December 2007

A Stroll around Warnham Nature Reserve

Had a drive down to W. Sussex today and decided to pop into Warnham. It had started off cloudy but by the time I arrived at 12.30 the sun had come out.

Nothing much to see on the water; many black-headed gulls, one heron and three pochards. Even the usual cormorants were missing and no sign of the teals seen last visit.

I walked through the wooded area which is a board walk and was rewarded with the sight of a male Bullfinch displaying his splendidly red breast. Nuthatches heard and a Green woodpecker. Not much else seen except a robin.

Decided I would try manual setting on my camera (the results are below). I've obviously got a way to go.

The bird feeder area provided Blue, Great and Coal Tits. A very territorial blackbird to whom even the Squirrel paid deference! A Nuthatch and Chaffinches were frequent visitors together with the Dunnocks, a Wren and a Reed Bunting (thanks for the ID Pete)
On my return to the Visitor's Centre, I was lucky enough to see a Fieldfare enjoying some of the very many red berries.

After a fairly cooped-up week it was good just to get some fresh air and stretch my legs.

Any constructive criticism, helpful hints etc. always welcome.

Reed Bunting.

This is my garden female Blackcap

Saturday, 29 December 2007

This morning I had two male siskins enjoying the nyger seed and the female blackcap occupied her usual place in the fat feeders. Yesterday (I'd forgotten) there was a Green Woodpecker hopping up the trunk of the Oak Tree and today I had a long-awaited return visit from a female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

I think I might have had a brambling in the garden with a small flock of chaffinches. By the time the bins were in focus it had moved around to the back of the feeder. I do hope, whatever it is, appears again tomorrow so I can get a better ID and, if light enough, a picture.

The sun was shining today; what a difference.

There are five hungry squirrels who frequent my mother's garden and have completely wrecked one of her seed feeders. So today found us in a very good garden centre which has an excellent choice of feeders. A new seed feeder was purchased and being a traditional Droll Yankee should defeat the squirrel.

Not much else to say really; taking Mum home tomorrow morning and if the weather permits I might have a walk around Warnham Nature Reserve (in West Sussex) on the way home. This where I saw my first, and only, Citti's Warbler

Just a personal note - you may not be with us Dad but Happy Birthday.

Friday, 28 December 2007

An ordinary day

Nothing in particular to report today. Took Mum to my hairdressers to have her hair cut and she was absolutely delighted with it.

There's always a risk when you recommend a service/person/item/restaurant to someone else as not all tastes are the same. All of us have individual likes, dislikes, opinions etc. and it's good that we do. What a boring world it would be if we all thought the same. So - relief that my recommendation was successful.

My son and his step-son, my daughter and grandson came back from Bristol today so it was great to have a "mini" Christmas with them. Son and step-son then returned home to Bristol having had not too bad a journey on the M4.

A few weeks ago when I'd been watching the antics of the birds in the garden, it struck me quite strongly how very lucky I was to have the opportunity of seeing so much wildlife literally on my doorstep. So, in a feeling of gratitude, I took pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and the following was the result.

I'm no poet and I'm sure those who know more about scanning, rhyming etc. will probably cringe if they have the time to read it; but this is offered as entertainment only and not to win any literary prizes. Here goes....

My garden friends

My garden friends, I love them all
From the visiting fox to the wren, so small
They delight the senses with their colour and charm
But how I wish the Robin would come sit on my arm

No matter the weather, they arrive to delight me
I’ll steer clear of the fox, in case he should bite me
Parakeets in their brilliance will gather at dawn
So noisy and perky, and me with a yawn.

The tits, great, blue, coal and long-tailed
Have arrived at the feeders, a sight I beheld
When watching the garden as dawn was a-breaking,
And me with a coffee that had been in the making.

The finches, they squabble, green and gold in the sun
I’m lucky there are several, not merely the one
The woodpigeon is bathing, oh no not again
The bath is now empty – more water needed – ahem!

I espy quick movement, what’s that moving past?
A little brown field mouse, he scurries so fast
More movement is seen, but flying this time
It’s a wren, I declare, such a favourite of mine.

Out in the garden with trowel in my hand
Down on my knees as though digging in sand
What is that red breast I see with my eye?
It’s my robin, my companion, as weeds I defy.

Jays in the Oaks, oh my what a racket
As they and the crows, in their very black jackets,
Together with magpies, very dapper indeed
Fight overhead, rather than dine on the seeds.

For the birds, I’ve not mentioned, please do not feel left out
I know you are there flying round and about
Nor the frogs, and all those whose home is my pond
Dashing about through the plants and the fronds

At the end of my day, when I sit back with content
And think of you all and what you have meant
You give me such joy, pleasure, entertainment and fun
Oh dear it’s so late, I’ll now have to run

My garden is always such a constant delight
and movement is there through day and the night
So to all my creatures, large, small or tall
It is I who should say, a big thank you - to all.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Thursday found my mother and I visiting RHS Wisley. 'Twas a very mild, cloudy and dull day so not very good for pictures. We visited the new Glasshouse again and I took the Macro lens with me. Mum has to use a wheelchair now so we stuck to the paths; however, it's very useful having the chair to carry my camera bag - luxury!

Whilst I was fiddling with the camera a very nice Mr. & Mrs armed with their Canons came and spoke to us (some people actually do this!) He asked: "what wide-angle lens have you got?" "Not the one I want", I replied. He had a Canon D40 (green green with envy) and the Sigma lens I've been seriously contemplating. A camera/lens discussion followed and he volunteered his camera with his Sigma 17 - 35 lens for me to look "through". WOW - loved the camera and lens.

This now presents me with a dilemma. I had been considering the Sigma 18 - 50 or the Tamron 17 - 50 and had decided on the Sigma 18 - 50 BUT the 17 - 35 now is very attractive.

However, my next lens is 100 - 400 and I think the gap between focal lengths of 35 - 100 is too great so I shall probably go back to Plan 1 and opt for the Sigma 18 - 50. Pete has the Tamron 17-50 lens and although his camera is only a Nikon (said she ducking!) I was very impressed with the Tamron as well.

So, next week when I'm back in a normal routine, I'm definitely off to the camera shop.

The fruits of my labour in the Glasshouse follows. I'm dissatisfied with all the pictures so these are just a flavour of what we saw.

Christmas has been and gone so only 364 shopping days left! Should be 363 days, I hear you say, but 2008 is a leap year.

Fairly quiet Christmas spent with my mother, brother et al and now back home with Mum staying for a few days so this will be a brief account.

The bird numbers seem fewer in the garden but given the amount of Sunflower Hearts that have been consumed, they've obviously been around in my absence.

Delighted that I've seen one of the blackcaps and one of the Siskins this morning. Still hoping that they'll bring their friends; perhaps they could learn to surf the web and see my plea! Amongst others, the usual flock of Goldies paid their early morning visit and one of the Jays dropped in. The Parakeets, needless to say, visited the feeders and my squirrel numbers have doubled to two - hope more don't follow their example.

That's about it for now; hoping to get some fresh air today.

Monday, 24 December 2007

A Foggy Day in London Town

Well not quite London Town but yesterday was a very very foggy day so not much happening in my neck of the woods. Finally at about 10.00 pm ish I saw the moon so fog at long last gone.

I feel very sorry for all those delayed at airports - must be so disappointing for them and theirs.

This is a short post as I've got a fairly long to-do list today.

Birding highlights of the morning: two female Blackcaps and two male Siskins - so 100% increase in both cases. The usual gang of 23+ Goldies, daily Parakeets, the Blackbirds, a Robin, Chaffinches, 1 Jay and 1 Magpie, Greenfinches, Blue and Great Tits and the Coal Tit put in it's usual morning appearance. The Woodpigeons had a lie-in in the Oak Trees

I won't be around the PC in the next couple of days, so I wish you all a Happy and Peaceful Christmas.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

A Birding Photo Call

Today I went to the London Wetland Centre with two very good friends Pete and Hugh. This was more to take photos than to spot anything unusual or rare. Had hoped to see the Bittern but it was the usual story; a fellow birder announcing "it was here 15 minutes ago"! Hey ho.

Not all the birds I photographed were wild. Although I took a great many pics I was getting very frustrated because they were not anywhere near satisfactory and were very blurred. Checked aperture, exposure and ISO - all seemed adequate to the, not so good, light conditions. I was then asked by "he who knows best" - "have you got IS (image stabilisation) on?" - "of course" I replied, as if this was a totally unnecessary question. So I checked the camera and... "NO" I said, and amid the ensuing laughter, I felt my face turn as red as Santa's outfit.

Here are the fruits of (some) my labours.

And these rather cuddly ones:

A great morning in excellent company - thanks guys!

And to top it all - a stop at Tescos' on the way home!!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Ring-necked Parakeets - missing - last seen at the Rugby Club

Well I've made it for the third day running.

Not a hugely exciting day today but one that, about about 3.45 pm had me standing, absolutely frozen, in the middle of a very muddy rugby pitch with my binoculars and camcorder.

"Why?" I hear you ask - "has she finally lost the plot?". Whilst I'm tempted to reply in the affirmative it was with good reason.

Living as I do near a rugby club that is host to the roost of some 3,000+ Ring-necked Parakeets, I have been monitoring them at the roost.

In October of this year it was reported that they had, as they did in October 2006, disappeared from the 40 or so poplar trees that provide their night-time accommodation. This was the case. Where do they go to? Why do they leave? So far no-one's come up with an explanation or been able to find where they go.

When they first arrive at the Club they land initially on various low trees surrounding the rugby pitch. Then, as if one of them shouted - Ready, Steady, Go - they fly in small flocks of about 20 into the poplars where they spend the night.

Once arrived in the poplars, they continue their incredibly loud noise for some considerable time. How long before the settle down, I don't know, as I've left before this. The noise is amazing!

I've been monitoring their return from early November. It started with a couple of hundred, then the numbers dropped to three, then steadily the numbers increased in the region of 400 -500. However, tonight, it was different.

The numbers had dwindled yet again. Only about 150 had finally flown into the poplars. I'd had noticed on a previous visit, that one of the trees had been felled and it appeared that it may have blown down in the recent very strong winds. However, there are now 6 of the trees that have been severely lopped to about a third of their original height and all the branches removed. An additional 2 have been felled.

It looks as though some of the trees may be shedding the odd branch or two, so is it for Health & Safety reasons that the Club have taken this course of action? Or, is it to deter the Parakeets?

I have today sent an e-mail to the Club to ask the reasons why. I await with interest for a reply.

What is interesting is that I'm still getting anything up to 15 in my garden as a daily occurrence; this suggests they are roosting not too far away.

Will they come back? Who knows? In 2006 they were definitely back in full numbers by the following February.

I shall continue to observe the roost with regular visits; I'm now fascinated by their behaviour and would like to know more.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

A Pottering Kind of Day

This is the second day of my new blog and I've still got a great deal to learn about the mechanics of posting so, please bear with me! Although I shall attempt to update the blog regularly it's unlikely to be daily. Time will tell ...........

Nothing of any great excitement to report today. Mostly domestic tasks- groan! Finished (at long last) making my Christmas cards and generally busying about. Gosh, this is SO exciting - you've probably fallen asleep already!

Very heavy frost again this morning and the pond was frozen over. So there am I, with daylight only just beginning to peep over the horizon, clad in my pyjams and putting container of boiling water on the ice in the pond to create a breething hole.

The birds are eating me out of house and home but is it so very worthwhile as I'm getting a very good number of garden visitors.

The Blackbird was first to arrive as usual, closely followed by Blue and Great Tits. Then later the "mob" of Goldinches arrived - all 26 of them with a few Greenfinches. A pair of Magpies demolished the food on the ground, competing with the Woodpigeons.

The pair of Jays occupied their usual spot at the end of the garden - somewhat disappointed that the Magpies had scoffed all the food.

Was delighted to see the female Blackcap who has visited daily since last Friday (14). She seems to love the fat feeder and spends some time there.

About 11 Ring-necked Parakeets descended on the garden having been enjoying what warmth of the early sun up in the Oak Trees. As they landed on the feeders the Goldies flew up to return once the Paras had settled. Little and Large together!

The Pintail, of course moves slowly around the pond driven by the breeze.

A couple of days ago I decided to take some winter pics of the garden - so here they are.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A Walk in Bushey Park

Went for a wander this morning with my daughter and her dog; a beautiful border collie. Although quite cold, the sun was shining, only a slight breeze and some hazy mist.

The first highlight was seeing three Green Woodpeckers popping up from the autumnal bracken. Unfortunately, too far away for a picture.

We avoided the lake areas in deference to Bukra's (the dog) ears as, if they get wet, they cause problems for her.

Lots of Long-tailed tits around and we were serenaded by their "twitterings" as our walk progressed.

One of the Red Deer was still "roaring" and was certainly active in successfully chasing a hind; many of the males still having their antlers.

We then came across a large herd of fallow deer and much to our delight there were some very cute and cuddly youngsters, with their bodies covered in what looked more like "fur" than their Mums and Dads coats.

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